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Baby Talk: Video Didn't Help Tots Learn

You don't have to be an Einstein to question how educational some kids' videos really are.

Kid wields TV remote. i i
iStockphoto.com
Kid wields TV remote.
iStockphoto.com

Now researchers are providing support for what some children's advocates and skeptical parents have long claimed: babies who watch educational videos don't learn any faster than babies who skip them.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside gave half the parents of nearly a hundred 1- to 2-year-olds an educational DVD to show their kids. The other kids didn't get a video.

Fast forward six weeks, and the researchers couldn't find any evidence the video-watching tots had a vocabulary edge over those who were deprived of the video. The results were published online by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Sound familiar? A few years back the Federal Trade Commission looked into the validity of marketing claims made for the Baby Einstein line of videos after a complaint by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood regarding that company and others. The FTC closed the case without taking action against Baby Einstein, because the company had already changed its Web site and vowed to back future promises with research.

Parent company Disney eventually offered refunds on Baby Einstein DVDs. The New York Times wrote, "the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect."

The American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors should discourage TV watching for children under two; academic research studies have shown little if any benefit of educational videos.

One study even showed that educational videos actually lowered babies' scores on a language development test, a finding that was hotly contested by the developers of Baby Einstein, who have gone to court to get the original research data.

The Baby Einstein videos have had one indisputable benefit. The company has been paying royalties to Albert Einstein's estate for use of the name, and according to Forbes, Albert Einstein was the fifth top-earning dead celebrity in 2007, beating out Andy Warhol and Marilyn Monroe.

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